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Russia is attempting to erase Ukrainian statehood: UK statement to the OSCE

Thank you, Chair. Good morning, colleagues. One year ago, Russia attempted to illegally annex the Ukrainian oblasts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. The illegitimate regional authorities, set up and supported by Russia, held sham referendums, fabricated the results and then announced their supposed control over sovereign Ukrainian territory. Despite international condemnation, Russia continues to claim it has control over these Ukrainian oblasts and continues to attempt to subjugate Ukrainians to its illegally claimed authority.

Mr Chair, we have seen countless occasions, such as these, where Russia has ignored the facts and repeated its patently false narratives. At the start of this month, Russia once again violated the UN Charter, staging illegitimate elections in Crimea and the Ukrainian oblasts it claimed to have annexed. As with last year’s sham referendums, Russia pre-determined the results. Russian authorities used intimidation to force residents to the polls at gunpoint. Russia has continued with the ludicrous claim that it is liberating Ukrainian civilians. But if that were true, then why did Russia need to use such tactics? Why over the past 12 months have we seen report after report of Russia inflicting appalling atrocities on these innocent civilians?

Reporting from the UN reveals that the continued use by Russian forces of torture on Ukrainian residents in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia is widespread and systematic. The UN has compiled accounts of beatings, electric shocks, sexual violence including rape, suffocation, waterboarding, strangling and deprivation of food and water. In some cases, such actions were inflicted with such brutality that it caused the victims’ deaths. Mr Chair, Russia’s true intentions are clear. Russia is attempting to instil fear and subjugate the Ukrainian people. Russia cannot hide its harrowing atrocities behind its blatant lies.

The UK will continue to highlight Russia’s repressive campaign against the Ukrainian people, including the deportation of citizens to Russia and temporarily Russian-controlled territory. As outlined in the third Moscow Mechanism report, deporting Ukrainian children forms a deliberate part of Russia’s strategy to wipe Ukraine off the map. The Russian authorities have forcibly deported over 19,500 Ukrainian children. That’s over 19,500 children who have been separated from their families and legal guardians. For each child, for each family, it is a tragedy. In February, the Conflict Observatory estimated that 6,000 Ukrainian children have been transferred to re-education camps in illegally annexed Crimea and mainland Russia. We also have information that this year, Russia aims to host around 100,000 Ukrainian children from Russian-controlled territories to participate in a summer camp programme, with the aim to politically indoctrinate children to align with Russia. These so-called summer camps seek to “Russify” Ukrainian children. Exposing them to a combination of Russia-centric academic, cultural, patriotic and military education.

Such appalling attempts to indoctrinate the most innocent expose the inhumanity of Putin and his proxies. The UK will not turn away. Last year, the UK sanctioned Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova for her alleged involvement in the forced transfer and adoption of Ukrainian children. And this year the UK sanctioned an additional 11 parties for their role in Russia’s chilling programme of forced child deportation. We will not hesitate to impose further economic measures on those determined to contravene international law.

Mr Chair, the United Kingdom stands united with our international partners in condemnation of Russian atrocities. We will never recognise Russia’s attempts to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory. And we will never allow Russia to normalise its brutality with disinformation, distraction and lies. Thank you, Mr Chair.

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